Sophia Bush Gets Ready For Earth Day With Planet Oat And One Tree Planted - Exclusive Interview

If there is one person who should promote earth month, it's Sophia Bush. The "Chicago P.D." actress is known for her prominent activism on a myriad of issues around the globe, especially when it comes to environmental initiatives. Now, Bush has paired up with Planet Oat and One Tree Planted to give back to the planet one tree at a time. Planet Oat is popular for its non-dairy milk and creamer substitutes, of which Bush herself happens to be a fan. The "One Tree Hill" star is encouraging people to donate two dollars to the campaign, which will result in the planting of two trees. "One Tree Hill" and One Tree Planted? Sounds like the perfect partnership. 

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Sophia gave insight on food sustainability and eating habits, activism, and did a deep dive into all things acting (any Brooke Davis, Erin Lindsay, or Sam Griffith fans out there?). Bush also dished out on upcoming episodes of "Good Sam" and explained why the show is so unique compared to her previous acting projects. Earth day is just around the corner, so the "John Tucker Must Die" star has some additional pointers on how you can contribute.

Sophia shared why being an environmental advocate is so important

First off, I would love to start with an overview about your partnership with Planet Oat and One Tree Planted, if you could tell me more about that.

I'm always looking for innovative ways to not only spread awareness, but also make sure we're actually moving dollars into the hands that need it. It is Earth Month, and growing up in California made me such a passionate environmentalist from a young age and trying to figure out ways for people to get out in their community, get involved, get their hands in the earth is always something I'm thinking about when this month comes up. To find out that Planet Oat, who happens to be my non-dairy substitute for my coffee every day, was doing this big initiative with One Tree Planted — can't believe I didn't come up with that charity name while we were doing One Tree Hill, but that's a separate conversation — that they were doing this activation with One Tree Planted to encourage reforestation, felt so exciting to me. 

There's so many big brands that don't do anything with their corporate dollars or with their platforms. I want to find people who are helping to shift that narrative and set examples. To find out that something that was already in my refrigerator was doing this great work felt exciting to me. I got to go out and work on a reforestation effort in the Watershed Park, by my parents' house, where my mom takes her dogs to hike every day. For people who don't necessarily want to sign up for a tree planting event in their neighborhood, although I encourage them to, they are also running a fundraiser with One Tree Planted where $2 donated means two trees planted. 

That feels thrilling for me, the fact that you can plant two trees for two bucks is like a no-brainer. We have many ways for people to get involved, hands in the dirt or not. My hope is that we can really encourage people to be mindful of their local ecosystems, to make small changes to their daily habits and their personal consumption that are better for the environment and to think about voting with their dollars when they're out there stocking their refrigerators.

Sophia revealed how eating habits can be more sustainable

You're a huge advocate for it [environmentalism] and sustainability in general, which is something your fans really admire about you. What is your thought process behind partnering with brands or initiatives like these?

At the end of the day, we live in a world filled with systems. We live in a world, in a country, for example, with a political system that we have to engage in and change through our advocacy. That's part of the reason I'm a co-founder of "I am a voter." We live in a world that has very structured financial systems. While they need to be worked on, we have to work on them to change them. When I think about what corporate systems and structures look like, we see so many corporations around the world doing so much harm to the planet. I'm very curious about how we can get behind corporations that are doing good, because we do have to get food, clothes and other items we need from somewhere. 

If we, as consumers, can put our dollars toward companies and initiatives that are then spending those dollars in the nonprofit sector, spending those dollars in the environmental sector, we signal to the entire financial world that [this is] what we care about. It feels like a really good way to help bend the road toward a better future, which I believe is all of our goals.

Yeah, and I would definitely say that's a great goal to have. Are there any food sustainability practices that you utilize in your everyday life?

Yeah, absolutely. I try to shop locally. I'm really lucky, like I said, to be in California; there's always a farmer's market here on the weekend. Whenever I'm at home, that's what I tend to frequent. I've also tried to swap out items in my daily eating habits so that I can be around 50% plant-based as a minimum, which I have found to be really helpful. There's a lot of pressure on people to declare what kind of eaters they are and do everything perfectly. That's actually not going to inspire much confidence or hope in most people. Shame is a really bad tool to teach with, and empowerment and curiosity are far better. 

Changing out the percentages of what I eat and realizing how much healthier I am and how much better it is for the world around me feels really good. Part of cutting out dairy for me was, A, it's bad for my asthma, and, B, it's not great for the planet. Switching to oat milk in my coffee felt like a really easy way to make a big change. Sometimes, people feel like it's going to be hard, but small changes add up to a big impact.

Sophia explained how you can reduce your environmental impact

Is there any advice you have for people who may not know much about food conservation practices, but want to start doing so? I know we kind of touched upon that, but if you had any advice-

Looking at the environment around you and figuring out how to support it is the best number one step. We're working with One Tree Planted to do these reforestation efforts, [and you can] hop on our website, see what's going on in your environment and then get out and get your hands in the earth, and think about what ways you can bring the earth back into your own home. Think about, for example, how to lessen waste. 

Can you make coffee at home every day, instead of going out and getting a disposable cup every day? That's a huge way to lessen your impact. Can you carpool to work with friends or coworkers? That'll lessen your environmental impact. Can you make sure you've got some reusable bags in your trunk or folded up in your backpack so that if you've got to go to the grocery store, you're not taking single used bags?. All of these small things make a big difference. Even turning the water off while you brush your teeth is a great way to conserve daily and it might seem small, but I guarantee you, if you looked at how much water you saved over the course of a month, you'd be surprised. 

There are so many ways that we can in our own lives every day [and] lessen our impact on the planet. Every two years we've got elections, midterms and presidentials, where we can support candidates who actually believe in sound environmental policy and who are working on preserving these ecosystems for generations to come. That, to me, feels like a no brainer.

Sophia dished out on all things food and The Drama Queens podcast

If there is one dish or food that you could eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A salt baked whole fish. It's a classic Italian dinner that I love to make for people.

Maybe that's your answer to my next question, then. If you were having a dinner party for, let's say, ten friends, what would your go-to dish be to make for them?

Yeah, I would definitely, depending on what everyone eats, I would do whole fish. I would do big platters of vegetables. I might do roasted chicken, that's another thing that I really love to make. Lately, I've been really getting into cauliflower rice. We ask a little too much of cauliflower; I'm like, "Listen, she can't do it all," but cauliflower rice, I'm really into.

I'm going to switch gears off of food topics for a little bit, to talk about your general projects, one being the "Drama Queens" podcast. How does it feel to be able to relive your old character, Brooke Davis — who is an absolute icon by the way, I love her — now, with Hilarie Burton and Joy Lenz?

The rewatch is more of a reclamation. We're getting to go back and reclaim our show and hold onto everything that was dear, and also to understand it from the fan perspective — we were making the show, we didn't often get to watch it. Now, to see it, we understand why the show has this iconic status and why it feels evergreen and why it never gets old. It's nostalgic and it's beautiful, and it's been such a special adventure for us to get to do that together. I also get to work on Zoom with two of my best friends, so I'm constantly having this "pinch me" moment of where we've all ended up and how we've ended up here together. It's very special.

 I love going through that journey with you on the podcast; I love what you said about reclaiming it. If you could pick one scene from "One Tree Hill," this might be a hard question, but that you are most proud of from an acting perspective, what would it be?

That's so hard because I haven't seen it all. I don't know how to answer that question yet, but I'm certainly excited to see where it goes.

How Good Sam has changed Sophia's outlook on the television industry

Was it difficult for you to transition from shows like "One Tree Hill," to "Chicago P.D.," to "Good Sam," since all three represent such different character backgrounds?

No. That's my job, and more so than working on the shows and researching aspects of these women's lives, their professional careers, whether for Brooke Davis, that meant going to New York as often as I could in shadowing fashion designers and going to Fashion Week and really learning about their work. For Erin Lindsay, [it was] shadowing women in law enforcement and also learning a lot about addiction because of her past, or for Sam Griffith, who is perhaps my favorite, my favorite lady following these incredible doctors throughout surgeries and lecturers and teaching, and really seeing the ways in which those people are dedicated to saving lives every day it's been such an ultimate privilege. 

In the midst of these TV characters, I've been off making films about plenty of other different women. It's really the joy of my life to be able to do research and to learn about what makes people tick. It's the reason I started "Work in Progress" and that podcast was what gave me the idea to call the girls and say, "I think we should do a 'One Tree Hill' podcast." It's really the curiosity at the core of everything for me.

You mentioned Sam Griffith — how has "Good Sam" changed your outlook on the television industry now that you are a producer, as well as the lead character?

"Good Sam" has proven the thing that I always knew was possible to be true, that you can build a work environment where everyone is respected and where people love coming to work every day, and where we work our asses off, but we laugh a lot and people feel valued and appreciated, and we collaborate all day. Everyone's ideas are valid. Everyone on that set is important. I always knew we could do it. I've always operated under that ethos, and it's a pretty incredible thing to finally be in a room where everyone else does too.

Yeah. And you can definitely see that through the screen and the show. That's fantastic.

I'm so glad.

Can you give fans any hints on upcoming episodes of Good Sam? I know you're coming back [this week].

Oh my goodness. The end of this season is quite a rollercoaster. The tug of war that begins happening between Caleb and Malcolm over Sam is quite interesting. The family drama continues to evolve in a way that I'm really proud of, the conversations that we're having, and the things that we're examining are themes that so many people can relate to and issues that so many people have been through. There's also going to be quite a bit of laughter, there'll be tears, there'll be laughs. It's a wild ride.

Sophia Bush advised young people on how to become more active in the community

Yay, I'm excited to see it. Are there any food or beverages that you always have to have on the set of "Good Sam" or while working in general on any set?

Oh my gosh. Yeah. I exist on coffee. I start my day with a hot coffee, then I move into iced coffee. I'm a coffee person and I don't think I could do my job without it.

Well, you're up at like 5:00 a.m., I'm sure, so that definitely makes sense. I've been following your career since high school and I would definitely say you're a strong inspiration for young women. What would your advice be for them in this career now that you've played so many strong female roles — if they're aspiring actresses or, in general, if they're looking to be advocates like you are with environmentalism and sustainability?

Yeah, I think my advice to all young people, but certainly young women is to know the power of your voice and to not wait, get involved now, advocate now, show up and help the helpers, listen to the experts, learn about what systems aren't functioning well enough for people and how you can contribute to changing them. Because young people are tremendously powerful and they see very clearly, they're often less encumbered by some of the pressures and things that happen to people as they get older. I've worked really hard to maintain that purity of spirit, where justice and equity are concerned through my life. It's something I never want to lose sight of. 

There's a lot of people who will say, "Well, you have to wait until you know more," [or] "Well, you have to wait until you've made this much money and then you can donate money." None of that is true. You can show up with your time. You can show up with $2 a month. Even our initiative, you could show up with two bucks and plant two trees. That means something. Young people need to know that they are immensely powerful, that they deserve to be listened to, and they need to bring their passion into the room with a willingness to be humble and to listen to the people who've been there before, because it's really through intergenerational friendships, and it's really through being willing to listen to each other, that we can get more efficient and that we can avoid making the same mistakes and make more and more creative outcomes to better society together.

And I think that now more than ever, especially my generation, is definitely working towards that and taking more risks than probably ever before.

I love that. Good for you guys.

Sophia revealed the food she always has in her pantry

What is the one food that you always have to have in your kitchen and why?

Aside from oat milk for my coffee, which feels obvious, I always have to have rice. Rice is such a good go-to base for anything. That's something I can keep in the pantry at any time. I really try to make sure I've always got at least a sweet potato and an avocado laying around, because with those things, I can make almost anything.

Right. Very versatile ingredients. So who is the one chef you'd want to cook you dinner?

Ooh. Oh my goodness. One chef I would want to cook me dinner... My God. That's so hard.

There's so many good ones. It's hard to choose.

Well, and I have friends who are chefs, who are — I feel so lucky when I can trick them into coming over here and cooking. My friend Kwame Onwuachi is the most amazing chef. His jerk chicken is out of this world, and I miss it. I also, you know who else I miss? Stephanie Izard, the chef from the Girl & the Goat in Chicago. She's so amazing. Her dumplings at Duck Duck Goat are — I think about them all the time, and she's opening Girl & the Goat in L.A. Hopefully, sooner than later, I'll be able to have some of Stephanie's food.

Oh, that's exciting. Would you consider yourself an avid cook?

Yeah, totally. I love to cook.

Visit Planet Oat's website to learn more about this initiative or One Tree Planted's website to get involved in reforestation.